While a student at the Kingswood School on the campus of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Florence Schust became a protege of Eero Saarinen.
She studied architecture at Cranbrook, the Architectural Association, London, and the Armour Institute (Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago). She worked briefly for Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Wallace K. Harrison.
She joined the offices of Hans Knoll in 1943.
In 1946, she became a full business and design partner and married Hans Knoll, after which they formed Knoll Associates. She organized and directed the Knoll Planning Unit, which was responsible for developing most of the early products as well as solutions to many modern corporate interiors. She re-directed the company?s product line from the Scandinavian style to International style
She retired from the firm in 1965.
She also involved in the interiors as those of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company in Hartford, CBS haeadquarters building in New York. Florence's designs appeared regularly in the Museum of Modern Art's 'Good Design' exhibitions.
Florence Knoll?s own designs are reserved, cool and angular, reflecting her modernist sensibility and perhaps the influence of childhood friend Eero Saarinen. While she is modest about her own accomplishments, it was through Florence that Knoll began to manufacture modern sculptural furniture such as the Tulip chair by Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi?s coffee table and Harry Bertoia?s Diamond chair.
In 1948, Knoll also acquired the rights to produce Mies van der Rohe?s furniture designs. During the 1950?s Florence Knoll continued to fashion the distinctive Knoll look, overseeing all aspects of the corporate identity, from showroom design to graphic design. She also recruited Swiss designer Herbert Matter to create a series of compelling posters advertising Knoll products and the Knoll logo.
In 1967, the Knoll identity was strengthened by Massimo Vignelli, who designed the bold graphics that represent Knoll today.
Knoll is one of the most respected and third largest manufacturers of contract furnishings in the world. Florence Knoll, set the company on the path that has led to its prominent position as a highly innovative industry leader today. "I design the gap-fillers," she once said. Clearly, she did much more.
Florence Knoll was the heart of Knoll design. It reflected her fastidiousness and care: no detail escaped, and she could be a tyrant at times. She had the greatest design eye of anybody in the business.